Today was to be the day I would write my round-up of Housecore Horror Film Festival but all that went out the window yesterday with the news of festival co-founder, metal journalist and true Crime author Corey Mitchell’s passing. Mitchell, 47, suffered a massive heart attack while loading out the festival Monday morning at Emo’s. A friend of mine texted me the news after he read it on the Housecore facebook page and I was/stillam just in shook. I just saw him, had several conversations with him over the weekend. Its so epically tragic, happening the morning after such a triumph, pulling off the 2nd Housecore Horror Film Festival, a fest that brought together metal acts, horror filmmakers, and an array of artists and vendors all in support of their common love of fear.
I haven’t known Corey for long, but he changed my life. He walked up to me at Sundance in 2013, outside the Austin Film Society sponsored party, and introduced himself. He told me about the new festival he was starting, he recognized me as the Director of Programming for Austin Film Festival at the time, and he wanted us to put something together. I realized very quickly I had been reading his articles on Metal Sucks for years. We talked a bunch that week and in the weeks after, about our mutual love of horror and metal music. I remember him saying ‘it seems like really you should be working for me’ as I was trying to push for more horror and darker material in general at AFF. I thought his whole idea for the Housecore Horror festival was amazing, bringing together artist from different fields that are natural if unspoken collaborators. The first true metal band Black Sabbath named themselves after a movie, and ever since then the connection has been obvious to fans of both horror and metal. In a way, HHFF does everything the SXSW could do but for some reason doesn’t seem to, it builds bridges between communities and allows fans to wander in and out of different experiences. (SXSW is just too big and too expensive to allow the sort of free-form discovery that is possible at a smaller festival by a casual fan). But Austin also already had a festival that played a lot of horror, Fantastic Fest. This was one of the first things I said to Corey when he told me about Housecore Horror, wasn’t he worried? He wasn’t, he said these fans are hungry and loyal and rabid, and besides, he wanted to do it, Phil Anselmo (co-founder and Metal God) wanted to do it, and he was willing to risk it. Unfortunately, I was never able to get HHFF and AFF together in our first year, despite countless ideas from Mitchell – I couldn’t get anybody else at my festival on board with the idea of helping a new fest on THE SAME WEEKEND. To myself I thought ‘good for him.’ Out loud I told everyone how frustrating it was that Mitchell and Anselmo had orchestrated the first ever Goblin reunion and gotten them to live score Suspira and I was missing it.
Mitchell was a fantastic journalist, and I could see in everything he wrote, that like me, he really loves what he is writing about, and he is doing it to help – helping films find an audience, helping metalheads discover new acts. He covered horror film on the festival circuit for Bloody-Disgusting.com and metal bands and classic metal albums for MetalSucks.net. He also wrote a number of True Crime novels including one about a series of murders in Austin called Murdered Innocents and was working with Anselmo on his autobiography (due out in 2015). I saw Corey several times on Sunday but I think my last sight of him on Saturday night is going to be the image that sticks with me. I had been there since 10:30 in the morning and made it all the way through to the 12:45 am Q&A with the cast of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. The film looked glorious on the huge rolling roadshow outdoor screen in the riverside parking lot. I’ve already seen the movie like 50 times so I knew I was never going to make it through the whole thing. Around 1:45 I headed out to my car. I saw Corey out in the parking lot, leaning on a car hood, watching the film (and his film festival) from a distance, relaxing I’m sure for the first time that day. I raised my hand in the air to say goodnight and he did the same, then he looked back to the film. He was a fan, he wasn’t missing this chance to see TCM on the big screen.
Life is too short. But Corey Mitchell just got shit done. He dreamt it and he made it happen. He was and is an inspiration and a guiding light in the Austin festival community. I’ll never forget him. He is survived by a wife and two daughters, who basically had the coolest dad in the world. He is also survived by a whole network of bands and filmmakers and festival alumni who, unfortunately, after an amazing weekend experience, will always have this tragic coda to their memories. I hope Housecore Horror Film Festival returns somehow next year, if only to celebrate Mitchell’s vision, but for now I will cherish the memory of what he accomplished, and the way he did it. Rock on, Corey.